Not many people start work at the farm before 7 a.m., but Hamid Serdani is one of them. He arrives as early as 3 a.m. to prepare and bake the array of sweet and savory delights we offer at our farm stand and the Corvallis farmers’ markets. From croissants to Portuguese custards to our famous potato donuts, each pastry is meticulously hand-crafted with love by our exceptional pastry chef. Serdani is also the man behind the decadent desserts served at our dinners and special events. It was about a year and a half ago that he joined our farm family. Since then he has been wowing us and our customers with his skill and artistry.
Serdani was born and raised in a beautiful village in Algeria called Cherchell, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, with a slightly smaller population than Corvallis. It was in this idyllic setting that he was raised and taught a love for food by his mother and grandmother. Together, they would forage for mushrooms and snails, as well as various herbs, for sustenance and medicine. Every day they would visit the village market to buy fresh produce and walk down to the small harbor for the day’s catch.
Between the ages of 20 to 22, Serdani was a member of the Algerian army. “It was interesting, tough,” Serdani says of that time. “It was nice actually, a good experience,” he adds. His group was stationed in the Sahara Desert where temperatures ranged from 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to below zero at night. And the training was hard, especially in such intense heat.
Soon after his military stint ended, Serdani moved to the Champagne region of France where he fell in love with their cuisine, their wine, and now his lovely wife, Maryna. They relocated to her hometown of Stellenbosch, in the heart of South Africa’s wine region. There he graduated from the renowned Institute of Culinary Arts (ICA) as ‘Chef par excellence’ and received the Wusthoff Achievement Award. During the next two years, he worked as a full-time lecturer and instructor at the ICA, where he taught up-and-coming chefs the finer skills of baking, pastry-making, and chocolaterie. In 2003, Serdani and his family decided to further broaden their horizons and settled in Oregon.
Over the past 13 years, Serdani has perfected his skills at fine dining venues in South Africa including Grande Roche Paarl, Willowbrook Lodge Restaurant, Lanzerac Manor, Erinvale Estate, and J.C. Le Roux. After relocating to the United States, he has been able to expand his repertoire at several restaurants in Oregon as well.
Now Serdani, his wife, and his fourteen-year-old son live in Corvallis, Oregon. He spends mornings baking pastries and desserts at the farm. The rest of the time he works as a professional chef, offering his culinary prowess for hire. Learn more about his services here. When asked what his favorite dessert is, Serdani emphatically answered fruit tarts. “They taste so fresh,” he says. He also loves croissants. As children, he and his siblings would eat three croissants per week, but he doesn’t do that anymore. “We were active when we were young,” he says. Nowadays he’ll have about one croissant per month, despite the fact that he bakes them on a daily basis for the farm.
In his free time, Serdani loves to play soccer and run. He runs the occasional 10K or half-marathon, his son joining him at times for some friendly father-son competition. You might not expect to find out that before baking, he used to cut hair and was a mechanic in Algeria. Even now, he still cuts hair for friends on occasion.
A quote from Serdani sums him up quite well: “I love food! It is what I do best. I cook it, I photograph it, and, best of all, I eat it!”
Much of this information was copied from Serdani’s website with his permission.
Photos by Jaime Fuller Photography.